The Spot: Fairy-Tale Express

Sustainable solutions are more than just make-believe in BBDO and Psyop's enchanting new FedEx ad

GENESIS: BBDO’s new brand campaign for FedEx explains some of what the company does beyond basic shipping. One recent spot looked at its medical solutions—for example, how it can transport bovine heart tissue around the world in time for a patient’s surgery. A new spot suggests FedEx’s environmental efforts help save forests. The creative conceit for both ads is to acknowledge up front that the claims may seem far-fetched, more make-believe than reality. So, the spots start out that way, as fictions dolled up with all the clichéd storytelling conventions of the genres they resemble—the medical ad is framed as an action-suspense movie, the environmental spot as a fairy tale. As the ads progress, those conventions are stripped away—the first spot loses its riveting music and special effects, the second its pixie dust and dancing sprites. What’s left are unadorned tales about brand innovations that are no less extraordinary, the ads suggest, for their lack of Hollywood drama or Disney charm.

COPYWRITING: For the forest spot, a jolly jumble of characters—a giant, friendly tree person, dancing animals, fairies, and sprites—were slowly sketched in with help from the animators at Psyop. “One late entry, script wise, was the notion of the storybook narrator,” says BBDO senior creative director and copywriter Tom Kraemer. The ad begins with a warm, deep voiceover to match the captivating visuals.

“The inspiring story of how a shipping giant can befriend a forest may seem like the stuff of fairy tales,” the voiceover says. “But if you take away the faces on the trees, take away the pixie dust, take away the singing animals and the charming outfits, take away the sprites and the storybook narrator . . . ” The voice then transitions to the flatter, more matter-of-fact tones of a FedEx driver, who appears on screen: ” . . . you’re left with more electric trucks, more recycled shipping materials, and a growing number of lower-emission planes,” he says. “Which still makes for a pretty enchanted tale.” This is followed by voice and screen text: “Sustainable solutions. FedEx. Solutions that matter.”

ART DIRECTION: Psyop creative directors Marie Hyon and Marco Spier filmed an actual forest over several days in Washington state on the northern Pacific Coast. The spot is 80 percent live action and 20 percent CGI at the outset, and 100 percent real by the end. To get some of the live shots, they used a RED Epic-M camera mounted on FreeFly Cinema’s CineStar 8 mini-helicopter. The agency considered a range of animation styles, “from old Disney/Pixar to a more Tim Burton/Alice in Wonderland kind of visual world,” says senior creative director and art director Nick Klinkert. They settled on a look that’s magical but not too cartoony. They kept refining the tree in particular, moving his face higher on the trunk to make him look friendlier. “It was also fun to have these 20-minute conversations about what a sprite should look like,” says Kraemer. The FedEx plane and truck are key characters, too, Kraemer adds—made to look toylike with a “sort of Fisher-Price feel” before morphing into the real thing.

TALENT: Noah Keen, a 91-year-old character actor, voices the storybook narrator. The young actor who plays the FedEx truck driver was chosen for his likable everyman quality. The animated characters are all fully CGI.

SOUND: A music collective called Human composed the sing-songy soundtrack, which Kraemer says would be “perfectly at home in a 1950s-era animated film.” There is minor sound design, like the quiet engine of the truck driving off.

MEDIA: National broadcast and cable, and online.



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